by Iqra Choudhry
A passel of freshman walked the halls of Stuart on the first day of school. Many lost, trying to find their way around, and others overwhelmed by the large number of students. Upperclassmen and teachers provided support and helped them navigate their way through the packed halls. Stuart has been introduced to an overwhelming number of freshmen and the result: crowded hallways, extra-long lunch lines, and a shortage of lockers and classrooms.
Stuart’s capacity is 1,970 students. The 2015-16 school year ended with 2,007 students and this year the numbers have risen to 2,062 students. This is the most number of students Stuart has ever experienced. Stuart is currently holding more students than the capacity limit.
The lunches are full, the main hallway is crowded- to an extent that student completely stop walking, and there are also not enough lockers to distribute to every student. Administration is taking action and is presenting some changes to possibly reduce the chaos.
“The I hallway is manageable most times of the day except right before and after lunch. This is when traffic in the I hallway, by the intersection of the E and H hallways, becomes too overcrowded.”said Government teacher Eric Welch whose class is located in the main hallway.
Not much change has been seen in the lunches since last year. With the four lunch blocks, the number of students in each lunch is divided up quite evenly. However, because the cafeteria is packed during every lunch, the lines are very long and dismissal from D lunch to class causes traffic in the hallways.
Administration has implemented rules so that transition between lunches and class periods can be safe and timely. Students are encouraged to use other hallways and avoid the main hallway if possible.
“For overcrowded hallways, I believe students need to find other routes to and from classes when possible. A lot of students take the I Hallway, but side hallways appear to be very thin during class changes,” said Assistant Principal Jeffery Barham. “I also believe students need to focus on getting to class and should not stop in the I Hallway and shouldn’t be engrossed in their electronic devices. That slows down everyone else from getting to class.”
The number of lockers and classrooms are also scarce due to the increase in the number of students. Lockers are only being distributed by student request.
“Classroom space is at a premium and we decided to go to lockers by request only, with the driving force behind that being that a lot of students never seemed to use lockers. We have enough for our demand,” said Barham.
Due to the shortage in classrooms, many teachers have had to share room space. Some teachers do not have their own classrooms and therefore have to change rooms for blue and red days and some in between every period.
Ana Carlos, an IB Spanish teacher, has had her own classroom for all her years at Stuart, except this one.
“I am a guest in other teacher’s classrooms. This means that I can’t store my materials where I teach and I don’t have a quiet place to prepare for my instruction,” she said. “I have to cut back on material that I can present because of the time it takes to go from one place to another,” added Carlos.
Another change is the location of the bus boards during dismissal. The boards are now located on either side of the main entrance to avoid a blockade at the front door. Students are encouraged to follow the Twitter page @stuartbuses to allow for a more effective and timely dismissal.
There is no doubt that Stuart is overpopulated, but efforts made by administration and teachers has allowed smoother transitions between classes and lunch blocks. It is important to keep in mind that this problem is not only affecting Stuart, but other schools in Fairfax County as well. The FCPS Facilites Office is looking into long term solutions.